The Senate this week unanimously passed legislation requiring a nationwide survey of radioactive radon in schools and providing states with $30 million to develop programs to address the problems of radon in homes and public buildings.
Radon, a naturally occurring gas found in areas with uranium-rich soil, has long been recognized as a cause of lung cancer but only recently emerged as a major public health issue. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency found that one in eight American homes has radon levels equal to the risk of smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day.
The gas poses no threat in the open air, but can build to hazardous levels when it seeps into enclosed spaces, such as schools and houses. The EPA considers radon the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and estimates that the gas is responsible for as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year.
Religious organizations providing shelter for the homeless won a victory two weeks ago when Congress decided they could receive federal funds if the money is not used for sectarian purposes.
In the past, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which regulates groups getting funds earmarked for aiding the homeless, has refused to give money directly to religious organizations, citing the constitutional requirement for separation of church and state.
The conference committee report for the homeless-assistance legislation, which passed in late June, said Congress intended that religious groups "may receive federal funds if constitutional guidelines are followed and those funds are provided for secular purposes and kept separate from sectarian activities."
More than half of metropolitan Washington's estimated 10,000 homeless people and the 2 million to 3 million homeless nationwide are primarily aided in shelters operated by religious groups, said Maria Foscarinis of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Maryland state officials have dropped plans to tighten regulations on mortgage companies accused of fudging settlement dates and interest rates.
Consumer Credit Commissioner Alan Fell said new regulations are not needed, even though the state has received 4,500 complaints since mid-April.
Complaints have come from home buyers who are angry with mortgage companies that promised one interest rate at application time and brought a higher rate to the table at settlement time.
Fell said the agency may review ways to strengthen regulations but that he does not want to over-regulate the industry.
AIDS could cost the nation's real estate industry $1 billion this year in lost rents, lower property values and depressed economic activity, according to a new report.
Fear of contracting acquired immune deficiency syndrome could make it harder to sell some homes or lease certain business properties in cities with large concentrations of AIDS cases, said the report by the San Francisco accounting firm of Deloitte Haskins & Sells.
The disease will have "direct and indirect economic consequences whose magnitude we are only beginning to perceive," said Stephen Roulac, who heads the firms' real estate consulting group that wrote the report released Tuesday.
Roulac made the $1 billion projection after noting that real estate accounts for about 10 percent of a business' costs and as much as 45 percent of the gross national product, including indirect costs.
The report cited a potential productivity loss, higher health insurance premiums and escalating public health care costs for the disease that could ultimately lead to higher taxes.
IN THE BUSINESS ... Century 21 Vinson & Associates Inc. has opened a second sales office in Silver Spring ... Amurcon Corp. of Virginia and Amurcon Realty Co. have opened Muirfield Wood Apartments in Loudoun County ... The Jeffrey Gardens in southeast Washington will get a $12 million face lift in a three-phase renovation through the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, the Greater Southeast Community Hospital Foundation, the Washington Urban League and Travenca Development Corp.
PERSONNEL FILE ... Jonathan Kempner has been appointed president of the National Multi Housing Council ... Tom Davis has been named vice president of engineering for Edward R. Carr & Associates ... Richard L. Copeland has been named a principal in ORS Associates, an office relocation and management consulting firm ... James C. Burge has been named a Counselor of Real Estate professional by the American Society of Real Estate Counselors.